Remember that Clash song: Should I Stay or Should I Go? It presents such a dilemma!
Don’t know the song? Consider this issue: Should I pay my student loans or purchase an awesome home theatre system?
Let’s try these workplace dilemmas:
• Should I give Petra a new challenging assignment for her development or assign it to Elisa who I know can do it accurately, efficiently and with high quality?
• Now that we have global offices in EMEA, Asia and Latin America, should we centralize or decentralize our operations?
But wait…are these really dilemmas? Or are they problems to solve?
Dilemmas vs. Problems
Consider these definitions to distinguish a dilemma from a problem.
• A dilemma is defined as “a situation where two or more opposing forces exist, each of which has advantages and disadvantages, but neither offers a complete solution. The tension between the forces must be managed because the dilemma cannot be solved.” For example, a leader must decide how to manage short-term profitability and long-term growth.
• A problem is defined as a situation presenting uncertainty or difficulty—and where a right answer is sought. Problems can be solved by making a particular decision. Should I work late tonight or go home to spend time with my children?
A critical skill for today’s business leaders is resolving complex issues quickly and effectively. However, not every decision is a dilemma and not every dilemma has a “right” or “best” solution. To distinguish a dilemma from a problem, ask yourself two questions.
1. Is the situation or difficulty ongoing—for example, is there no one right solution?
2. Are there two opposing positions, both with advantages and disadvantages?
Dilemma Management Process
Once you have confirmed you are dealing with a dilemma, the first step to management is identifying the two positions of the dilemma. The second step is analyzing the positions of the dilemma. After understanding the dilemma, you can manage it by creating a strategy. Finally, you must monitor the implementation as not to cycle back and forth between positions.
1. Should I Stay or Should I Go? [It is a problem, not an ongoing decision, but also a cool song.]
2. How about should I pay my student loans or purchase an awesome home theatre system? [It is a Dilemma, assuming paying the loans is an ongoing obligation over years and the person needs a strategy to achieve advantages of both positions while minimizing the disadvantages.]
3. Should I give Petra the new challenging WIP assignment for her development or assign it to Elisa who I know can do it accurately and efficiently and with high quality? [It is a problem, not an ongoing situation.]
4. Now that we have global offices in EMEA, Asia and Latin America, should we centralize or decentralize our operations? [It is a Dilemma, because it is ongoing situation that can be managed to achieve advantages of both positions while minimizing the disadvantages.]